At 11 years old, Valparaiso resident Nicholas Lee said he would have preferred to stay inside Sunday afternoon and play video games.
But his grandparents, Karren and Patrick Lee of Gary, pointed him in a different direction, or more accurately, several different directions outside during a workshop on the hobby/sport of orienteering at the Paul H. Douglas Center For Environmental Education near the lakefront in Miller.
“I’m always looking for things outdoors and non-computer,” Karren Lee said.
Kelli Baxstrom, an intern with the Student Conservation Association and National Park Service, handed out compasses and maps to participants during a short introduction before hitting the nearby trails just outside.
She said orienteering began in the 19th century in Sweden and is defined as, “The crossing of unknown land using a map and compass.”
It later spread to this country and there are now various groups and competitions, including at least one in the Chicago area.
“I really enjoy the idea of being out in the wilderness with a map and compass,” she later said while waiting along a trail for participants to make their way to the sixth and last check-in point along Sunday’s route.
Participants were challenged to use their maps and compasses to find various clues to a riddle that was correctly answered as the Karner Blue butterfly.
Baxstrom showed the group how to place their compasses on the maps, point them in the direction of their destination and then position their own bodies to the magnetic north to set out in the correct direction. She tipped them off to keep track of points along the way on the map with their thumbs as a way of recovering should they wander off course.
“It’s a wilderness survival tool,” she said.